Georges River Council's rates consultation receives strong community engagement

More than 54 per cent of the community who responded to Georges River Council's Changes to your rates project expressed some level of support for the council's preferred option of a 10.6 per cent rate increase.

The council received more than 5,700 responses to the Changes to your rates project by the time community consultation closed on Sunday, November 17.

Georges River mayor Kevin Greene thanked the community for their participation in the consultation phase and said the extended consultation period allowed ample opportunity for people to share their feedback.

"5,700 hard copy surveys were returned to council and a telephone survey of 600 randomly selected residents was completed," Mayor Greene said.

"In addition, more than 600 online surveys have been completed."

The council is pleased with the strong level of feedback received from the community.

"We are talking about well over 10 per cent of the 54,000 rateable properties in the LGA," Georges River Council Director City Strategy and Innovation, Sue Weatherley said.

"When you think that many properties have two people living there, that 6,000 may represent as many as 12,000 people."

The council presented three issues: the harmonisation of minimum rates; changing the business rate for Hurstville and Kogarah CBDs; and a Special Rate Variation of 8.1 pre cent which combined with the 2.5 per cent rate pegging would see a rate increase of 10.6 per cent.

The council held seven information sessions at different locations across the local government area.

Drop-in sessions were held at Peakhurst Night Markets and Kyle Bay.

General Manager Gail Connolly said speaking to residents it was clear that the way the rates system works is not understood by some.

"At the community session at Mortdale the first question was around development. People thought that all these extra units and additional population would be generating a lot more rates income," she said.

"I replied that our total rates increase is capped at around 2.5 per cent. So the total amount raised is limited by the state government and has nothing to do with the increase in population or new development or land valuations going up. Many were surprised . We do levy these new developments but it is proportional.

"Additional growth does not generate additional income.

"As a result of feedback from one-on-one was very supportive of the 8.1 per cent increase when they understood that rates are capped by the government.

"Other feedback was that the minimum rate for Hurstville of only $570pa was unrealistically low.

"Some families are living in a three-bedroom apartment and paying $570 a year minimum rate and yet have the same access to all the facilities, the libraries, parks, leisure centres and other services, as someone living in a three-bedroom house in Blakehurst who is paying four times as much.

"The idea that there should be some equality received very strong support."

The harmonisation of rates is a legislative requirement, Ms Connolly said.

The council could ask for a postponement to next year but it will eventually have to be introduced.

"Seven of the 20 merged councils are proceeding with it now rather that putting it off to the following financial year.

"A deferral is just postponing it," Ms Connolly said.

Mayor Greene said, "We are currently analysing community responses and it is anticipated that a report will be presnted to council in early 2020."

Councillors will be briefed at a workshop in December about the outcomes of the community consultation.

After the workshop, the council will put together a report which will go to an extraordinary meeting of the council in February.

The councillors will then decide whether to send the report to IPART with the preferred option of a Special Rate Variation of 8.1 per cent on top of the pegged rate of 2.5 per cent.

Based on community feedback, they made decide on a minimum rate change or to support the Special Rate Variation, or do nothing.

While the consultation period is now closed, the community can still access the information.

A video of the General Manger's presentation at the information sessions is available on the council website.

If the council decides to proceed with the preferred option, the community can then make a submission to IPART.

For more information on Council's proposed rate structure, including Frequently Asked Questions, please visit https://yoursay.georgesriver.nsw.gov.au/SRV

Residents can also call Council on 9330 6400 or email yourrates@georgesriver.nsw.gov.au